Last Sunday our next door neighbors moved away. They were new parents, a young military family moving to a new assignment in Texas. I saw them go with some remorse. I had chatted with him as I saw him outside working in the yard or working on his truck. But I had never moved toward them in any meaningful way. As they pulled out Sunday afternoon, I realized that my opportunity to cultivate a deeper relationship – a relationship that could bear the weight of a gospel conversation – that opportunity was lost. New neighbors will move in soon, and we will have a new mission field next door. And I have to trust God to bring other people in the lives of my former neighbors, now somewhere in Texas.
A friend* recently pointed me toward Dr. David Jeremiah’s “Personal Mission Statement.” Jeremiah asks himself five questions about the people in his life, to see how God might use him to reach his friends for Christ. God has sovereignly placed each of us in a sphere of influence. Each person we know presents an opportunity to talk about the beauty of what God has given us in Christ.
Here are Jeremiah’s five questions:
1. Who is in my circle of influence? These will include neighbors, co-workers, friends, members of my immediate and extended family, and others.
2. What is their spiritual condition? This calls for a kind of spiritual triage. Who among that group already knows Jesus and is walking with him? Who among them are the “cultural Christians” (people whose familiarity with the Bible and church culture makes them assume they are right with God, even though they’ve never really understood the Gospel)? Who among them are thoroughly secular (those who view all religions as equally irrelevant)?
3. What entry points do I have in their lives? Answers might include workplace interaction, recreation, common interests, community service, etc.
4. With which people do I have the most influence, the most available opportunity for a Gospel conversation? Start with the people with whom it would be easiest to begin the conversation. Begin with the open door.
5. What am I willing to invest or sacrifice (in time, finances, personal preferences, etc.) to help those people know Jesus? I know, you’re thinking what I’m thinking. I was fine until he got to this last question. But this question is the one that really matters: What am I willing to sacrifice to see that my friends have an opportunity to know Christ?
We all know that the secular elite, particularly in the entertainment industry, have a negative view of conservative Christians. We’re all familiar with the negative stereotype: it’s always the Sunday school teacher who turns out to be the bad guy. I’m convinced that one of the kindest thing we can do for our non-Christian friends is let them know a genuine Christ-follower. This isn’t just about combating bad publicity; it’s about taking away barriers to people knowing Jesus.
Pray over these questions. And make yourself available to those people. Begin with cultivating a few deep friendships, and trust God to use you to reach the people He’s already put into your life.
*Thanks to Linda Rice for giving me this.
(This will be the last Discipleship Weekly until July 26, as I will be in Albania. Please be in prayer for our time there and the young professionals we have the opportunity to minister to.)
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